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The Magisterium in its Proper Context as Part of the Church's Prophetic Office We can rest confident that the Holy Spirit will effectually enable the Church to fulfill its mission so that it will neither lose its essential character nor fail to reach its goal. Toward that end, there is real value to be realized both from some type of governance and some visible focus of unity (e.g. a primacy) even though we might grapple with their precise nature and jurisdiction. From a practical perspective, some degree of socialization and institutionalization is normative due to our fallible human condition and also because we are radically social animals. At the same time, noninstitutional vehicles will continue to emerge and reemerge as a natural part of institutional life cycles. We can describe Five Witnesses to Revelation: 1) scripture 2) tradition and the prophetic office of the 3) magisterium 4) sensus fidei fidelium and 5) consensus of theological scholarship. I believe that the church's prophetic office exercises its charism whenever its three distinct witnesses together demonstrate legitimate authority, which we recognize as that quality of leadership which elicits and justifies the willingness of others to be led by it. Further, that witness called the magisterium might be more broadly conceived in terms of church polity, which has been variously practiced in episcopal, presbyterial & congregational forms, usually in conjunction with some form of constitution or other codifications, all varying in their degree of governance (extent of jurisdiction, how binding, etc). We can further distinguish between the sensus fidei fidelium (the sensus fidei of the whole body of the faithful) and the sensus fidei fidelis (the sensus fidei belonging to the individual believer within the community of the faithful). The believer brings an openness to these Five Witnesses to Revelation that includes honors a hermeneutical spiral of 1) personal experience of love 2) imaginative interpretation of reality as be-loved 3) intuitive grasping of love through symbol, metaphor and story 4) practical and moral experience of love's promise & promises 5) personal experience of being nurtured, helped & saved by love 6) integration of all of these modes of loving and being loved 7) critical perspective and 8) self-critical perspective (in dialogue with sensus fidelium, magisterium, theologians & the world). Finally, we would certainly not over-identify the magisterial witness of the mystical body's prophetic office with the Roman Catholic


magisterium.


Magisterium in its proper context as part of the church s prophetic office